As with strict chinese tradition and meal manners go, this is the only time you are permitted to “play” with your food! There is an ongoing debate as to whether Yu Sheng is a Singapore or Malaysia invention. To me, it’s all the same. It represents the Asian Chinese community’s wishes for good fortune!
What is Yu Sheng?
It is a traditional dish only eaten during the Lunar New Year. It is possibly the “turkey” equivalent of thanksgiving except it’s in a salad form. For the Chinese, lunar new year is a time of reunion, gathering of families, friends and even business partners and staff, to thank everyone for their hard work and to wish for a prosperous new year ahead. So this is a symbolic dish that everyone at dinner table will share in tossing up.
Chinese are very superstitious people, especially during this special occasion, so every ingredient that makes up the Yu Sheng are carefully selected for their auspicious sounding names. Cucumber, radish, carrots – these are the main ingredients and it symbolises a good start (好彩头). Other ingredients include: pickled cucumbers, pickled gingers, orange peels etc.
Auspicious terms are said aloud as each ingredient is added to the salad:
Sesame seeds & peanuts: 五谷丰收 symbolising a rich harvest of the staple “five” grains as you pour the seeds over the salad.
Lime sauce: 大吉大利 limes and mandarin oranges are known as 桔子 so similar sounding to being auspicious and lucky with each squeeze of the limes!
Sweet plum sauce: 甜甜蜜蜜 it symbolises saccharine sweetness all year around.
Raw fish(salmon): 年年有餘 as fish is pronounced similar to “extra” in manadarin, this is to symbolise a year of abundance! (hence the extras!)
Vegetable oil: 顺顺利利 the nature of the oil will provide for a “smooth” sailing year ahead
Crackers: 滿地黃金 this is my favourite as it means the floor is littered with gold ingots as the crackers fall to the plate like gold pieces tossed upon us!
And then…everyone sticks their chopsticks in and toss, as high as you can! The higher, the better your fortune! And be sure to keep saying those auspicious terms as loud as you can!
I absolutely love Yu Sheng, and how I wish to have the dish all year around! It is healthy (fish and vegetables!), it is a Singapore invented dish (or so it’s claimed), and it should be meant for every celebratory occasion from successful business partnerships to team building sessions! The camaraderie and unison in everyone’s hopes for the new year resonates with every toss up.
Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone!
-Act of leaving behind life’s burden, roles, expectations, responsibilities.
-Welcoming new knowledge, developing new relationships, people, new directions.
-Removal + releasing clutter, the unnecessary, negatives.
-Stripping set rules, perceptions, prenotions, assumptions, standards, and old habits.